Qatar top diplomat in Iran to discuss Afghanistan

Tehran (AFP) –


Qatar's foreign minister met his Iranian counterpart in Tehran on Thursday to discuss developments in Afghanistan, the Qatari diplomat and Iranian media said.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani held "talks on regional and international issues" with Iran's Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, reported Iran's ISNA news agency.

Sheikh Mohammed, who this week met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Doha, tweeted that he and Iran's foreign minister met "to discuss the developments in Afghanistan".

"The State of Qatar believes in the effectiveness of having a unified vision to ensure a comprehensive solution for Afghanistan," he added.

The two men also discussed improving trade relations, including by speeding up visa issuance for business travellers, Iran's official IRNA news agency reported.

Qatar is close to the US and hosts Washington's largest military base in the region, but it also enjoys strong ties with Tehran, with which it shares the world's largest gas field.

Iran, worried about the Taliban's return to power, on Monday "strongly" condemned its assault on Afghanistan's Panjshir Valley, which had been the last stronghold of resistance.

The region's dominant Shiite Muslim power, Iran had until now refrained from criticising the Taliban since the Sunni group seized Kabul on August 15.

Qatar has long acted as a mediator on Afghanistan, hosting the Taliban's talks with the United States under former president Donald Trump, and then with the now deposed Afghan government of president Ashraf Ghani.

Iran, which shares a 900-kilometre (550 mile) border with Afghanistan, did not recognise the Taliban during their 1996 to 2001 stint in power.

Already hosting nearly 3.5 million Afghans, and fearing a new refugee influx, Tehran has however sought to reach a rapprochement with the Taliban since their lightning seizure of Kabul amid the US withdrawal last month.